Warning: this post contains spoilers for Conn Iggulden’s Margaret of Anjou, the second in his Wars of the Roses series
As I was reading this book, I was wrestling with a confusion that had nothing to do with its contents, and which I should seek to clarify. This book, sold in the US as Margaret of Anjou, is the same book as Trinity, the title under which it is sold in the UK. And now that we have that exceedingly minor point of confusion cleared up, we can get on with the rest of the review.
This book did not pull me along quite as well as the first book did, but this was more from Iggulden’s strength as a writer, not the result of any inherent weakness to the book. Much of the first book is spent building Margaret into a strong, sympathetic character, working against challenging odds and under difficult circumstances to preserve the reign of her husband’s line on England’s throne. It is not until the end of the first book that we get a glimpse of her questionable judgement, when she extends a pardon to Jack Cade and his men, only to double-cross him when her goal’s have been met. The second book builds out this short-term thinking and poor judgement into decided character flaws, making parts of it challenging to read. I found that I kept wanting to think of Margaret sympathetically, and she continuously made decisions that made that more difficult.
I suspect that Iggulden knew that continuing to focus on Margaret as the primary viewpoint character in the second book, given the evolution of her character, would make it difficult to read, which is probably why much of the attention instead turns to Richard York. We get glimpses of his complexity in the first book, and those are more than fulfilled and built upon in the second. He is obsessed with improving the standing of his name and acquiring power, convinced that King Henry is unfit to rule (which, honestly, he is), and that the throne ought to belong to him. Yet he cannot bring himself to kill King Henry. Not in the heat of battle, not with poison in the night. Not in strength, nor in weakness. More than anything, although the book never comes out and says this, I gained the impression that York mostly just wants to be accepted by his king.
Throughout all of this, there is the undercurrent of the destruction of England’s strength and prosperity by the conflicts between Margaret and York over Henry. Often unremarked as the story moves from castle to battlefield and back again, it is on display when York’s forces invade London, and when they march for war in the winter. With frequent warfare, a conflicted, dysfunctional government, and both sides claiming they are fighting for the same king, the rest of the population is left in the lurch: crops destroyed, livelihoods ruined, wealth eliminated. Considering all of this is at the behest of somewhat capricious nobles, it seems startling that there were not more popular rebellions during the period.
Compared to many of his other books, this one did not feel as detailed, and it seemed rushed. I suspect this is because of the challenges of having to deal with long stretches of history in which, relatively speaking, nothing exciting happens, but I think a better job could have been done to communicate the passage of long stretches of time, and the machinations and manipulations undertaken to bring armies together for the next major clash. Instead, we get battle after battle, when in reality there would have been significant time between these events.
I intend to read the next book in this series soon, but perhaps not immediately. This fall is seeing a lot of books coming out in long running series, including a new Cradle book, a new Shannara book, and the fourth book in Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives, and I will need to get to re-reading soon so that I can properly enjoy these pieces. The good news is that many of the books I will be re-reading are not yet reviewed on the site, so I will be able to add those to the collection. For now, I hope that you consider reading Conn Iggulden’s Margaret of Anjou.